Saturday, October 02, 2010

On double standards

Both of Saskatchewan's main dailies are once again carrying the Sask Party's water in pushing privatized health care. But the Star Phoenix is particularly obvious in its preference to pour money into the private sector even if there's no reason to expect better care or efficiency as a result:
While NDP health critic Judy Junor, whose former government signed off on this contract that clearly imperils the public good, thinks that the road to wait list salvation is found by pumping yet more money into a public health system that already swallows almost half the provincial budget, there is little evidence to support her stance.
To have a private care provider that either erodes quality or is more expensive isn't in the interest of society any more than it is to have a public provider that continues to take up ever more of the public purse. The fundamental shortfalls must be addressed first.
So what's wrong with those passages? Let's look at what the Star Phoenix is ultimately prepared to accept, and what it wants its readers to rule out.

As usual, the editorial is quick to condemn a public system that "already swallows almost half the provincial budget" and "continues to take up ever more of the public purse". So as far as Saskatchewan's corporate media is concerned, any further investment in our public system is to be avoided.

But when it comes to privatization, there's another standard entirely. Never mind whether any additional expense eats up just as much budget room as the public alternative; apparently the only concern in the private sector is whether it "erodes quality or is more expensive" than public investment.

In sum, as far as the Star Phoenix is concerned, any investment in the public sector at current cost levels is fiscally irresponsible and to be avoided. But pouring public resources into the private sector at the same cost and efficiency level that's considered intolerable when it goes to the public system - well, that's just peachy, as long as it isn't demonstrably worse.

Needless to say, that message strongly echoes the Sask Party's constant emphasis on privatization even when there's no reason to think there's anything to be gained. And both lines of spin are apparently based on the false claim (normally left unstated) that payments to private providers somehow don't count when it comes to managing health care costs.

But the focus on privatization over cost control and quality of care isn't any more reasonable coming from a media outlet than from a government determined to slash public services. And the Star Phoenix' double standard should lead readers to question whether it can be taken seriously in any of its discussion of Saskatchewan health-care issues.

(Edit: fixed typos.)

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